A Scots priest in Rome

Fr Nick Welsh (pictured front right) describes his life as a priest in Rome, where he is Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Scots College.

One of the strangest things about being a priest in the seminary is that we don’t work in a parish.

For diocesan priests this is quite unusual since the normal work of a diocesan priest is parish work: to be in the midst of the people entrusted to him, caring for their spiritual needs and preaching the Word of God.

It also involves celebrating the sacraments, visiting the sick, comforting the dying and the bereaved, joyfully celebrating baptisms and marriages and being involved in our school communities.

In the seminary some of that takes place, but it is still very different.


The seminary certainly is a place for living in the midst of the people entrusted to us – even more so than in the parish because we live in the same building.

It is a place for preaching the Word of God, but the only sacrament I would celebrate as vice rector would be the Eucharist.

There’s no baptisms to be done and I can’t hear the confessions of the seminarians (the spiritual director is the only priest in the house who can).

There are certainly no marriages to be celebrated, and given the youth of our seminarians, funerals are unlikely.

So how does a diocesan priest survive in an environment where so much of his ‘bread and butter’ is not available to him?


At a recent meeting of Pope Francis with priests studying in Rome, he encouraged them to have some kind of pastoral activity on a Sunday; to get out of their colleges and have something much more like a normal Sunday as a priest.

Whilst it is slightly different for us as seminary formators as our pastoral responsibility is the seminary community, it is also good for us to get out of the college and regularly experience something of a more typical Sunday for a priest.

I say ‘typical’ rather than ‘normal’ because for us, as a seminary community, the in-house celebration of the Eucharist is normal; it is the norm for us as men either in formation or offering formation.

It’s not odd that seminarians celebrate Mass in the College, it’s just different, and it is right that they do have Mass in the College, because the Mass, especially on a Sunday, is a time of formation, and the homily, especially, ought to be addressed to seminarians and their discernment and formation journey.

To experience that more typical Sunday Eucharist, each Sunday, one of the priests from the College will celebrate Mass in the local parish church, Santa Rosa da Viterbo.

Local parish

The local parish is a ten-minute walk from the College, along the via Santa Giovanna Elisabetta.

Don Federico, the parish priest, along with the two curates don Pablo and don Paschal, have always been welcoming of the College.

They have been keen to have the priests involved in the life of the parish. And so each Sunday one of us will celebrate the 9am Mass.

It’s the first Mass of the day and, whilst it tends to have an older congregation, there is a lively music group composed of around 20 sisters from a nearby convent who help raise our hearts and minds to God through their music and singing.

The real challenge of celebrating the Mass in the parish is preaching.

Having to preach in a foreign language means that a bit more planning and time has to go into the homily, as well as a bit more of an appreciation of the cultural context and the political goings on in Italy.

The people, however, seem to appreciate the homilies of the Scots priests, one advantage being that they tend to be much shorter than the others (Italian priests are known to preach for 20 to 25 minutes, even during the week!).


After Mass, we join a group of parishioners at a local bar (and bar has a different meaning in Italy – we’re not heading out for a pint at 10am!) for coffee and a cornetto.

And it is here that I would say we feel very much part of the community of Santa Rosa.

Each week there is a fight to pay, each person keen to take care of the bill.

Each week people make enquiries into life in Scotland, asking after previous College staff members who used to celebrate Mass for them;

And each week there are jokes and banter  - often lost on us foreigners!

All of it reminds us of our typical Sunday in a parish in Scotland, which one day we will return to.

And all of it reminds us of the universality of the Church; that I can show up in a parish in a foreign country and, even though the language is different, the Mass is the same, the welcome is the same, all because of one thing: the Faith is the same!

Fr Nick Welsh is Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Scots College, Rome and a Priest for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh. Article published originally here.

Seminarians instituted as Acolytes in Rome

Six Scottish seminarians were instituted as Acolytes by Bishop Paul Tighe at the Scots College in Rome on Sunday.

They include Alessio Marchetti (above, second left), a seminarian of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, who is a fourth year student at the college. He is pictured with Fr Nick Welsh (left, vice rector of the Scots College and a priest of our Archdiocese) and Deacon Josh Moir (right, who is being ordained to the priesthood for our Archdiocese this summer).

Bishop Tighe, also pictured, is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The new acolytes are pictured above (front row from left): Ciaran Rooney (Glasgow Archdiocese), Aidan Matheson (Aberdeen Diocese), Alessio Marchetti (St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese), Michael Kearns (Glasgow Archdiocese), Christopher Furmage (Motherwell Diocese) and Paul Laverty (Paisley Diocese).

May God bless them on their journey to the Priesthood.

An acolyte is a milestone on the journey to priesthood, usually conferred in the fourth year of study at seminary. The next stage is diaconate, followed by ordination to the priesthood.

If you are based in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and want to find out more about the priesthood, contact Fr Andrew Garden on 0131 663 4286 for a chat or email him at, vocations@staned.org.uk. For the religious life, contact Sr Mirjam on 0131 623 8902, religiousvocations@staned.org.uk

WATCH: Priest School on BBC iPlayer

Priest School aired on the BBC Scotland channel last night giving viewers access to life as a seminarian at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome.

Deacon Ryan Black, who features on the programme, said: "It drew an audience of 80,000 people and an 8% share on BBC Scotland on Sunday night – the highest audience for any digital channel in Scotland."

The programme featured interviews with two of our seminarians, Bobby Taylor and Martin Eckersley, who gave an insight into the challenges of studying in Rome for seven years as well as the many positive aspects of community life.

We've put together a highlights reel of the programme, below, to help encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life.


If you are based in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and want to chat about the priesthood, contact Fr Andrew Garden on 0131 663 4286, vocations@staned.org.uk. For the religious life, contact Sr Mirjam on 0131 623 8902, religiousvocations@staned.org.uk

Priest School is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer. Click here.